Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Russia in talks with Georgia over Abkhazia Independence

The IHT is reporting on UN-backed talks between Russia and its former republic Georgia, over Abkhazia- a province of Georgia seeking full independence.

I posted an earlier story on Abkhazia here, it highlighted the complexities of multi-state autonomy. Recent developments in Kosovo, a state within Serbia, sought independence due to its ethnic Albanian majority, brought to light the legality of state recognition of independence movements and the potential domino effect Kosovo may have in an already volatile region.


UN Security Council set to discuss rift between Georgia and Russia

The Associated Press
Tuesday, April 22, 2008

UNITED NATIONS, New York: The Security Council scheduled a closed-door meeting Wednesday to discuss Georgia's call for the UN's most powerful body to address Russia's alleged "military aggression" against the breakaway region of Abkhazia.

Vitaly Churkin, the Russian ambassador to the UN, said after the council discussed Georgia's request for an emergency meeting on Monday afternoon that "we did not object to having a meeting," adding that "we'll have things to say at that meeting as well." David Bakradze, the Georgian foreign minister, is expected to attend the council meeting. Churkin said he reminded the council of the need to hear the views of the Abkhazian side as well, "and we will continue to work having them invited to speak to the council."

Tensions between the two countries have escalated over two breakaway regions in Georgia - Abkhazia and South Ossetia - which have close ties to Moscow and have been independently run since the early 1990s when fighting with Georgian troops ended.

Georgia said a Russian fighter jet shot down an unmanned Georgian spy plane Sunday as it flew over Abkhazia. Last week, President Vladimir Putin of Russia ordered his government to increase cooperation with the separatist authorities in Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

Moscow has granted Russian citizenship to the vast majority of the breakaway regions' residents and recently lifted 12-year-old trade sanctions against Abkhazia. Russian officials have warned that Georgia will have to abandon its claims on the regions if it joins NATO.

NATO declined to offer Georgia a road map for membership at a summit meeting earlier this month but assured the pro-Western president, Mikheil Saakashvili, that his nation would eventually join the alliance.

Georgia's ambassador to the United Nations, Irakli Alasania, said Putin's order on April 16 to open full-scale cooperation and formalizing its relations with Abkhazia motivates the separatists "to completely withdraw" from the negotiation process and "poses an open threat to Georgia's statehood and sovereignty."
"We witness a new dangerous reality," Alasania said. "The Russian Federation is legitimizing annexation of Abkhazia" and South Ossetia, "integral parts of the internationally recognized territory of Georgia."

He said the latest Russian actions and separatist threats forced Georgia to use unarmed capabilities to collect intelligence data "on our sovereign territory" - and on Sunday "Russian military aircraft intruded Georgian airspace above Abkhazia" and shot down an unarmed vehicle.

"We call upon the UN to address this direct military aggression against Georgia," Alasania said, urging the UN to fully exploit its "own means and capabilities in order to keep the situation from further escalation." He called on the UN military observer mission in Georgia to expand its monitoring capabilities "with emphasis on detection of any military activities on Abkhazian segment of Georgian-Russian border."

Although council members will discuss Georgia's complaint, no action is likely, because Russia has veto power.

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